(CNN) - Republicans continued to put Hillary Clinton at the center of their inquest into last September's attack in Benghazi, claiming Sunday the former secretary of state wasn't assigned enough blame in an independent probe of the incident.
But in singling out the top Democratic presidential prospect for 2016, Republicans find themselves balancing their quest for answers with charges of being overly aggressive in a bid for political gain.
Speaking Sunday, the Republican lawmaker leading the charge in Congress to investigate the Benghazi attack said his goal was not to tarnish Clinton's presidential chances.
"Hillary Clinton's not a target. President Obama is not a target. The target is how did we fail three different ways," Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
His remarks came after week of renewed interest in the Benghazi saga, and fresh charges of politicization from Democrats. On Wednesday, Issa's oversight panel heard an account of the Benghazi siege from a former top diplomat in Libya, who described a harrowing night that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to the country.
The hearing, which lasted five hours, drew loud protests from the White House and Congressional Democrats, who accused Republicans of rehashing a case that has already been investigated by an independent review board.
Witnesses in Wednesday's hearing, including the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Gregory Hicks, questioned the legitimacy of that board's report on the Benghazi attack, suggesting it did not include accounts from key witnesses to the assault who were on the ground as it happened.
On Sunday, critics also questioned why Clinton herself wasn't assigned more blame in the report.
"Obviously she was the decision maker at the State Department," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said on CBS "Face the Nation," adding she was "surprised" Clinton wasn't probed further.
The co-chair of the review board, former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, defended his work on CNN's "State of the Union," arguing his panel was charged specifically with investigating security decisions, which he said were not made at Clinton's level.
"She has already made clear the buck stopped with her," former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said. "But we were interested in where the decisions were made. And she did not make the security decisions."
Pickering's report, released late last year, found "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department in the lead-up to the attack in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead. As a result, four State Department officials were disciplined immediately after the report's release. One resigned, while three others were placed on administrative leave and relieved of their duties.
Those actions were deemed insufficient by some Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul, who told Clinton during a hearing in January he would have "relieved you of your post" had he been president.
He made similar remarks on Friday, telling a crowd of Iowa Republicans that Clinton's actions were "inexcusable" and should "preclude her from holding higher office." Paul is openly considering a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
His remarks in front of potential Iowa caucus-goers only fueled Democratic accusations Sunday that the Benghazi focus is a veiled bid to discredit Clinton.
"Unfortunately, this has been caught up in the 2016 presidential campaign-this effort to go after Hillary Clinton," Sen. Dick Durbin said on CBS' "Face the Nation." He called Republican scrutiny of Clinton a "witch hunt."
"When Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned 32 times in a hearing…a point of the hearing is to discredit the secretary of state who has very high popularity and may well be a candidate for president," Sen. Dianne Feinstein added on NBC's "Meet the Press."
On Sunday, Sen. John McCain also linked Clinton to a bungled administration response to the Benghazi attack, which he amounted to a "cover-up" of information designed to protect the White House.
His accusations were fueled a set of internal e-mails from September that were released this week, which showed top administration officials changing a set of talking points used to describe the Benghazi attack. The talking points were meant for members of Congress, and for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice during appearances on Sunday talk shows.
McCain and other Republicans allege the changes to the talking points – which eliminated references to al Qaeda being involved in the attack, which came less than two months before the presidential election – were politically motivated, since President Barack Obama had campaigned using his administration's handling of national security issues.
Clinton herself isn't shown receiving or sending any of the e-mails herself. But McCain alleged it was impossible for her not to have been involved.
"I think that the secretary of state has played a role in this," the Arizona Republican said on ABC's "This Week."
"She had to have been in the loop some way," he continued. "But, we don't know for sure."
Anything Rand Paul is saying is his own ramp up to 2016... Why do you think he is running to do "townhalls". I have nothing against an investigation, but this is not one of those. This is a bunch of junior high cheerleaders trying to tear down the girl they think may get nominated for prom queen.
It shocks me that the Republicans want to impeach Obama for not stating that it was a terrrorist attack..although he did, it the statement from the Whitehouse was after the fact. BUT, Bush lied repeadely to go to war and about 100 times after it started and they are ok with it. People, except that who watch Fox News, see this for what it is...a political preimptive strike. The Republicans believe that Obama is out to destroy them...and they are doing everything that they can to get him first. But, what they are really doing is sealing their own fate. It is sad and pathetic. The want so bad for us to go into another war...this time with Syria or Iran or North Korea...or any other country Haliburton can think up. Sad, so sad.
this is typical. they don't want anyone actually held accountable, they just want to make sure someone doesn't run for office again.
"Only one person can give the military an order to "stand down." That is the President. They need to go after Obama. He is the one that caused their deaths"
4 spec ops would have been an absolutely useless and futile effort against upwards of 30 heavily armed militants. What is so hard for you nitwits to understand about this? Stop daydreaming that you "finally have a chance to impeach" him and grow the hell up, get realistic, start thinking rationally, and stop with the temper tantrums.
The GOPT are scared because they all know Mrs. Clinton would win the 2016 election by a landslide if she doesn't give in like Susan Rice and decide to run! Run Hillary run...run Hillary run...run Hillary run!
If those Republicans are so set on bring things in the open how come they don't go after Bush and his VP for the laws they broke? I say if they want to press this for no good reason they need to step up and push for charges to be brought against Bush and his VP. If not we all know it's just a political thing and nothing else. WE have people sitting in prison right not because they followed their orders that came from the White House so why aren't they in prison along side the others?
@KennyG – "The GOP is now treading water with this when they should have be swimming with big strokes before the election. The election would have had a different result and we would not have been left with this ineffective leader."
Got news for you, President Obama would have still won over the 47% guy! Benghazi, as tragic as it was, doesn't effect us, but the 47% went to the heart of the hard working American people. Enough said!!
I cannot imagine the fear and despair those four Americans felt when they had fought their best, hoping all the time that help would arrive, only to realize at the end that their country had deserted them. Shame on America for this. If this was allowed to happen for ANY reason having to do with our current President or his policies, then the man must be impeached. For this to happen, someone obviously screwed up big time; If the buck doesn't stop at the President, then where does it stop?
The Republicans say they are concerned about the 4 Americans, yadda yadda. If they were as concerned about the 4,000 Americans dead in Iraq then I would believe they were really concerned, and not just lying about being politically motivated.
This constant harrassment has to end. The only way we are going to get back to "reasonable" government is if we vote out these teabags next election. This is all an attempt to tarnish the fine reputation of Hillary Clinton and IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK. You may think we all just fell off the turnip truck but we did not!
"... which he said were not made at Clinton's level. ... And she did not make the security decisions."
What part of those statement, are unclear to these Republicans?
How can we have so many Congressmen holding high level Committee positions within our Congress, and have them be so totally clueless on how day-to-day foreign state matters are handled?
The GOP/Tea Party/NRA is a failed and misguided party. And just like Obama beat them down and took ALL the swing states in 2012, Hillary will do likewise in 2016. The GOP can threaten Americans and filibuster, the NRA can buy congress, and the Tea Party can try to assert their neo-radical agenda all they want but the American people will speak up once again in 2016 to make sure the communist right wing nut jobs do not hijack this country.
Lets see you declared compassionate, all knowing, name calling liberals seen to have a big problem with your icons being investigated.
We have gone from a leadership that brought an oppressive regime down without firing a shot, to a leadership that has not the ability to protect four tortured Americans in a security environment of a chicken coup.
The problem here in many cases seems to be a mass following of people without leadership skills.
Hows this all working out, iran on verge of nuclear, north korea pointing missiles in our direction, syria 70 thousand dead, egypt islamic extremists at helm etc. etc. and you deride those that want answers?
The democratic party it is not just a party it is a religion and one knows that their religion is pure. The pipe piper plays and many follow to his sweet promises.
Do you people not care that you're repeating blatant falsehoods just to attack any Democrat within range? I'd also like to know why any of you think you're qualified to question a military decision you were not involved in and of which you have zero knowledge?
This boils down to one thing... something bad happened.. it must be Obama's\Hillary's so we'll just keep demanding "answers" even though they've already been given in a desperate attempt to seem like hard-core Republicans.
The only reason Bush doesn't talk about anything anymore is he was told we'll let this go as long as you bow out of politics and don't talk about politics or the people in office. anymore.
Face it, the Repub party does nothing to build up, they only tear down! They hate govenment (except how it pads their pockets) so they don't govern, have no interest in doing anything for the people, only want to destroy the other side to gain full power to continue their military adventures. Yesterday I went to a restaurant that had Faux News on and for the 2 hrs I was there all I saw was Benghazi & IRS!! Newt Gingrich let it out of the bag this morning on the IRS issue when he linked it to Obamacare – now we know why they are bringing this up now since they've known about it since 2011. The Repubs have two goals now – 1) take down Obamacare 2) take down Hillary.
All the libs here are doing what libs typically do, distract everyone from the real failures of their messiah Barry and his minion Hillary. If it were a republican president you libs would be foaming at the mouth calling for all sorts of investigations. Dont deny it, you know it. But what do libs now do, blame Bush. That literally ALL the libs can do is blame Bush..
CNN doesn't want to talk about Gates calling these buffoons "cartoonish" and explaining why, because there is no standing military force in the middle east, the criticism of the stand down order is ridiculous and based on a very unrealistic and fantastical understanding of our military capabilities.
How many American and coalition partners were murdered fighting a unilateral GOP war in Iraq based upon false GOP WMD evidence?? Even George H. Bush knew it wasn't worth it to go into Bagdad during the first Gulf War. Too bad his son dubya is a complete moron for focusing on short term cheaper gas prices rather than going after Bin Laden.
Republicans say "this isn't a witch hunt", but any look at history reveals NUMEROUS ATTACKS ON AMERICAN EMBASSIES DURING THE BUSH YEARS. If republicans cared at all about American embassy security, they'd have impeached Bush and all his cronies for the vast number of failures.
And it's this relentless focus on nonsense that's going to make the GOP lose big, again.
What was the republican focus the past years? Jobs? NO! It's been birth certificates, benghazi, abortion, and other nonsense.
Does anyone really believe the GOP would do anything positive if they were in POWER?
What's supposed to be the fine line, she should be accountable, her response was next to nothing and both sides of the aisle should want this pursued and resolution concerning the ineptness and misleading responses.
The GOP is not targeting Clinton or Obama. They are targeting those who are responsible for changing the Benghazi story and lying to the American people. If it turns out to be Clinton and Obama, then so be it. They are in charge. The left blames Bush for everything – why – because he was in charge. Same thing here. Deal with it and quit crying.
I would have rather Congressman Paul make that statement in DC instead of a stump speech in Iowa. The business of politics and fund raising knows no bounds on either side. I wouldn't spend a dime on donating to any politician.
I think voters are smarter than the Republicans give them credit – no witch hunt is going to distract from their stupidity. Rand Paul would be a great candidate for them in 2016 – he couldn't beat Sarah Palin let alone a breathing Democrat.
What goes around comes around